My year in contributions: 2014

Here’s the first of my year-end roundup posts.

The spirit of Giving Tuesday doesn’t have to die at the end of November. These are the organizations and projects to which I gave coin (generally tax-deductible), property, and/or effort in 2014. Please join me in supporting their work.

Some links: 71

Catching up on a lot of bookmarks, so this will be a bit of a link dump.

  • Reduced-meat or meatless diets (Mediterranean, pescetarian, vegetarian) are both better for your health and more sustainable for the environment, as David Tilman and Michael Clark find in a recent paper, and as Elke Stehfest summarizes.
  • I am loving Nature‘s new sharing tools. Susannah Locke explains the journal’s move toward more open access.
  • Emily Dreyfuss signed up to give Wikipedia six bucks a month.

    …Wikipedia is the best approximation of a complete account of knowledge we’ve ever seen.

    It’s also the most robust. The most easily accessed. And the safest. It exists on servers around the world so, unlike the library at Alexandria, it can’t be burned down.

    You should chip in, too.

  • The Biodiversity Heritage Library has opened an online exhibit dedicated to women in science who began working before 1922. Some of my recent subjects are there, including Florence Merriam Bailey and Mabel Osgood Wright.

Mitchell the mensch

I was asked to complete an online survey by one of the environmental/educational organizations that I support. Most of the questions were routine, but I was struck by this free-answer question:

If you can recall it, what is the story or situation that inspired your first philanthropic gift?

And I was prompted to tell this story from college:

It’s not the first time that I made a donation, but the conversation left its mark on me. I was in college, and I was walking with a fellow student, Mitchell H., and someone asked us for a donation–I don’t remember the cause. And Mitchell pulled out his wallet as naturally as taking a pen from his pocket. Later, I asked him, “What do you care about starving whales/greening the Armenians/whatever the cause was?” He said, “This is what you do.”

Mind you, I was on scholarship/loan/work study/piggy bank and Mitchell’s family was probably paying full fare. Nevertheless, that exchange has stuck with me.

(We’ll save the story about how Mitchell tricked me into eating styrofoam packing peanuts for another time.)

Still time to contribute

I tried to add a couple of causes to the list this year, especially locals like Casey Trees and Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, while maintaining my support levels for everyone else.

These are the organizations and projects to which I gave coin (generally tax-deductible), property, and/or effort in 2013. Please join me in supporting their work.

Good causes, one and all

These are the organizations and projects to which I gave coin (generally tax-deductible), property, and/or effort in 2012. Please join me in supporting their work.

Good seats still available

These are the organizations and projects to which I gave coin, property, and/or effort in 2011. Please join me in supporting their work.

Spread the word

In addition to a quick blurb as @DavidGorsline, I want to praise the online publication of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington. Selection as one of 70 top small-budget (under $3 million) DC nonprofits involves a six-month vetting process to find organizations with “rock-solid financial and organizational structures.” Washington City Paper, in its introduction to the list of 70 worthy charities, writes,

Traditionally, the Catalogue has bound its list into a book and distributed thousands of copies to “high net worth individuals” in the area. This year, we’ve worked with the organization to highlight its list in our pages, with the idea that you don’t have to be rich to want to give a little.

Please give

Recent disasters, natural and man-made, in Japan, Haiti, the Gulf of Mexico call out to us: we want to give time and money to alleviate suffering and mitigate environmental damage. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But several columnists have pointed out that the need for charitable giving is a 24/7/365 thing (among them Holden Karnofsky at GiveWell). The earthquake victims are still under duress even after their tour through the news cycle. Often, what’s needed most at a disaster scene isn’t what’s easiest to fit in an envelope. Donated funds that are earmarked for relief of a particular calamity hamper organizations’ ability to deploy resources where they are most needed.

The best way to help is to establish a long-term relationship with a few select organizations, and to make unrestricted gifts. There is a handful of groups that I have helped for ten years or more, through thick and mostly through thin: there’s been maybe a year following a layoff when I wasn’t able to give. But when times are flush, I try to give more, and to more organizations.

To the extent that a particular sharp event cracks open your wallet, keep the relationship going. I made my first contribution to the American Red Cross in the aftermath of 9/11, and I’ve been giving slowly but steadily since.

Bits are cheap

And clicking a Like button is too easy.

These are the organizations to which I gave coin, property, and/or effort in 2010. (Some of these were Christmas gifts to family members.)

Good intentions

Ariel Kaminer realty-checks volunteering at a soup kitchen for the holidays:

So though [Joel] Berg [executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger] appreciates the thought, he says the best way to contribute is to lend your specialized abilities, such as legal or computer skills.

“The truth is, spending a few hours at a food pantry or soup kitchen helping people apply for food stamps will do a lot more to end hunger than months serving soup or moving cans around,” he said.